Congratulations on your graduation…
On this, your graduation, I wanted to acknowledge the amazing woman you are becoming. At risk of offering advice, which you undoubtedly neither need nor want, I offer you this essay. I tried to remember back to when I graduated and the fears, excitement and concerns I had about the plans for my future.
This is the advice I wish I had been given.
Spend your entire life concentrating on finding your authentic self and nurturing that person inside of you.
Think of your authentic self as that little girl inside you. Think of her value, her real heart, how she was before she was hurt or ignored or moulded into someone else’s idea of who she should be. Protect, nurture and raise THAT little girl. What advice would you give her? What people would you protect her from? What activities would you allow her to participate in or not participate in and why? Then act accordingly.
Pay attention to your body and her inner signals. If you feel unhappy, upset stomach, headache, nervous tension, happiness, joy or total relaxation, pay attention. This is how you discover who YOU are. What makes your happy or sad or upset. Pay attention and purposefully decide:
Learn to self-regulate and self-determine your own state of emotional well-being.
Are you happy/sad because of your own decisions and life direction or are you relying on the actions of someone else to determine your feelings. It is normal to be influenced by others and to feel happy because they are happy or sad but you have to find ways to regulate your own feelings outside of other people and their experiences.
Learn everything you can about self-talk and use it to feed into your own reality.
Find ways to determine and validate your own feelings outside of external influences. This is the real YOU. The real you can get silenced by the needs of others or redirected to serve others or guilted into actions or pushed aside because of a desire to popular or loved.
Never silence your own inner voice. True authenticity really DOES come from nurturing yourself and your own voice. Silence the demands, noises, boyfriends, siblings, parents, friends, expectations and society’s “norms” and find YOU and then stay true to YOU and your needs, desires and expectations.
Discipline your authentic self to starve the parts that don’t serve you well
Some of my authentic bits have a nasty side to them. I have a really, really bad temper. It is authentically ME. It is my true impatient nature coupled with my wicked tongue and I own every bit of it.
However, it is not beneficial to my life. It has caused me to lose the love, jobs that were important to me and friendships that I cared about.
This is not the person that I want to be.
It is authentically ME. It is my inner voice and it belongs to me but it is a reaction that I have chosen to eliminate from my life because of the damage it does.
Women tend to think that they can be as bitchy as they want to be because it is authentically how they feel in the moment. Young women are especially prone to this. Being bitchy has a steep price. You will regret the eventual outcomes of giving in to your temporary feelings. Discipline the parts of yourself that don’t serve you well.
Another tendency for some women is the opposite side of the same spectrum. Be as nice and kind as possible no matter how you really feel. They think that if they are wonderful human beings, they will be loved, respected and treated well in return.
The real YOU is not bitchy just because or always nice nor should she be. Listening to your inner voice will help you determine when not being nice is a good idea. Not everyone is your friend and many have their own motive for their actions towards you. Being willing to NOT be nice is a life skill. Being willing to stand up yourself, to determine your own boundaries with regards to the levels of respect that you deserve and being willing to walk away from situations or people that don’t mind your boundaries is a worthy life-enhancing, life-protecting skill to have. Learn not to be nice.
Listen to your inner voice. It will get easier to hear the more you pay attention to it.
Remember who you want to be, starve the parts of you that don’t lead you there and surround yourself with people who support that vision.
Feed what serves you and starve or eliminate what holds you back
All authentic people have good traits and bad traits and some of us have REALLY bad traits. We have to own the whole package and forgive ourselves for our faults and celebrate the things that make us unique and wonderful but we do have a choice as to which traits we feed and which ones we starve.
Discipline the parts of you that hold you back. Know your weaknesses. Identify them. Then consciously push yourself to eliminate them in healthy ways. Whatever you fear – learn ways to overcome that fear. Whatever cause you repeated problems – eliminate.
Allow yourself to fail, forgive yourself for mistakes and move on but every day start with a new determination to
This is your life and you choose how you live it. Your weaknesses do not choose for you.
You must remember that to every action there is a reaction – maturity is thinking about the reaction before we take the action. This way we get to decide the outcomes of our lives instead of simply trying to outrun our bad choices.
Take time to discover who YOU are before you tie yourself down.
You will go through many changes during your next few years. You are going to be depressed. You are going to fall in love. You are going to have your heart broken and you are going to break someone else’s heart. You are going to do things you are ashamed of. You are going to give up and self medicate to find peace. You are going to feel extreme joy and a natural high from life’s adventures. You are going to be very proud of yourself. You will make friends and lose friends. You will have adventures and disappointments. You are going to make devastating mistakes. You will forgive others for making mistakes which affected you. You will experience deep grief. You will wonder what you are doing here or how you got yourself into this and you will wonder how you are going to get yourself out of it. You will hold deep resentments which will affect your future choices. You will be prejudiced. You will have moments of deep wisdom. You will save someone else’s life by your words or actions. You will change and grow, learn and live, get scars and give scars.
So how do you the right choice to make, the right road to choose? You don’t.
You simply learn as much as you can about what makes you happy and what doesn’t and you feed the parts of you that bring you peace and starve the parts that cause you problems. It gets messy when you try to self-protect or listen to other people too much or try to be someone you are not. Using what you know about yourself as your measuring stick, think about the reactions to your actions and then you jump. You trust in your ability to survive the good, the bad and the ugly. The more you know about yourself and your unique abilities, the better you will get at finding your way.
Those who learn to adapt – survive.
It is MORE important to learn to adapt to changing situations than it is to prepare for current situations.
Now that you have graduated – quick….choose a career, school, job, life partner, life, independence, interdependence, car, bus, train, planes and automobiles…make a choice, make another choice…now…now…RIGHT NOW!!!!
Look at your options. Listen to your inner voice. Look at your list of available actions and what the reaction will be then compare it against the person you want to become. Choose the option that will give you the most future benefit which is in line with the person you wish to become.
Be ready to adapt to a new choice at any time.
Have a Plan B.
For some people, happiness is having a plan C, D and E.
Any bumps in the road, changes in plan or obstacles ahead are opportunities for you to practice the greatest skill you can ever learn – the skill of adaptability.
Play the what-if game and have solid answers for..what if?
WHO you allow into your life can determine your success, failure, happiness or misery.
Every person has an energy which they share with you every time you interact with them. Their energy will affect you. Your energy will affect them.
Some people feed you a great, positive energy. When you leave their presence you feel empowered, enabled, validated and ready to take on the world. You have drawn energy from them which matches the best parts of who you authentically are.
Some people feed their negative energy which calls out to the negative energy in you. That authentic part of you that you are trying to starve or master can be fed by someone who struggles with the same negative feelings. You may feel like kindred spirits or soul mates because you can totally relate in every way to where they are coming from. It calls to that authentic part of you that struggles in the same way but you are actually feeding the part of you that you should be working on mastering or starving.
These are the most dangerous people of all because they innocently keep you from moving forward in your life. They are not malicious or wanting to harm you but the fact that they are not moving in a positive direction means that their energy stops you from moving in a positive direction. Be very very careful around these types of people. They will block your path to success and ultimately cause you unhappiness, poor life choices and an imbalance in your energy levels which leads to depression.
Some people have the energy you wish you were or you wish you had and if you stay around them and allow them to feed you that energy, you will become more like them.
Some people, usually those who need you or your help, will give you a negative energy that doesn’t belong to you and if you allow it to feed you, it will negatively effect who you are. Everyone needs to help those who need help but you must be careful not to be overwhelmed by someone else’s problems because their energy can pull you down.
Imbalance in energy causes depression, anxiety and misery.
You are also giving of your energy. If you are doing well, people will be drawn to you. You can enhance their world with your positive, insightful energy and you can help them on their path to success.
If they are negative, they can draw on your positive energy and feel better.
Balance your energy exchange.
This balance between giving and taking energy from people around you will determine your emotional balance and ultimately your happiness/depression and success or failure.
When you are around someone, no matter how much you may emotionally connect to or love that person, pay attention to the energy you are exchanging and ask yourself – is this energy enhancing who I want to become, pulling me back or holding me back. Answer honestly and then decide whether to continue to invest in a lot of connection with that person. Determine how much time or energy you are willing to give.
I have collected friends over the years who I loved with all my heart but their energy fed the wrong part of me. I didn’t see it but others did. I was warned by different people who knew me well but I thought they were warning me because they just didn’t like them or they didn’t know them well enough. I thought they should just give them a chance. But they actually saw something I didn’t see.
I loved them so I ignored the advice and continued to keep them as an important part of my life. In one case, she was my very best friend in all the world and I loved her with all my heart. In the end, every one of those friends I had been warned about stabbed me in the back, lied to me or betrayed me in some significant way. The fall out from the pain of those people lasted years in my life and wasted very valuable time I could have been using to enhance my life.
Since I have learned this lesson, I pay much more attention to energy, I build better relationships and I have been a thousand times more successful and much happier. It is something I wish I had learned years and years ago. Be very careful who you spend time with.
Determine your own definition of success
Don’t buy into someone else’s idea of what success is. Some people, usually your parents, will tell you that having an education and a good career will lead to success. Some friends might tell you to travel the world and party as much as you can because you don’t know how long you will live and you should enjoy every moment. Others will tell you that the world is crap and everyone is corrupt and the only way to be happy is to stay drunk or high. Success to them, is unattainable and therefore useless to pursue. Others will tell you that their religion or their God should be the focus of your life.
Everyone has their own idea of what a successful day, week, year and life is.
What is your idea of success?
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the thought that you have to strive for this foggy notion of “success” without really knowing how it is defined. It is difficult to decide what steps to take if you don’t know where you are going and the pressure to decide right now, sometimes leaves you frozen in one spot, unable to decide on a direction to go.
If you think of success as place, time or event in your life, then you are going to miss the mark.
Success is fluid. Every time to you hit a goal or benchmark, you will have succeeded but the second you do, the prize will be moved away from you and you will have a new goal or achievement to strive for. This is normal and desired. Happiness is in continuing to move, through obstacles and barriers towards one goal, then another and then another. This is how you build emotional muscle. This is how you build resilience. This is how you become invincible. This is how you determine your own definition of success.
Pick one thing that you want and strive for success in that one area, then move to the next goal. Don’t try to plan your whole future. Pick one goal post and aim for that. Make sure you are always moving towards that goal. Discipline yourself to stay true to that goal.
Than choose a new goal.
Education or Employment
If your parents are paying for your education, go to school. Seriously – no matter how you feel right now – go to school. Education will not guarantee you a good job or success in life but it will discipline your brain to think and ignorance is very, very costly.
If you have to pay for your education, choose wisely. Figure out which courses will bring you a good paying, industry needed, career as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Don’t worry about being locked into a career you don’t like. You will change careers five times in your lifetime but try to get an education or degree around something that pays well and is needed so you always have something solid to fall back on.
Don’t say, “I will work first and then go to school when I have saved up the money.”
You won’t save the money and you won’t go back to school.
If you can go to school – if there is any possible way – go. Go now. Right now. Do not wait.
If you absolutely cannot afford an education then find a vocation that has some upward mobility. Find something where you can train your way into a better paying position. Don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship.
Anyone with a good attitude and good work ethic can build a good career for themselves. There are good jobs out there but you have to willing to hustle and you have to earn your way up the ladder.
The power of money
Money is very important because money gives you the power of choice. Choice is the best way to determine your own happiness. Never give that power to anyone else. Even if you are married, even if you have children, find a way to make some independent money. Hold on to your own choices in your life. Maintain some financial independence.
Money is always the problem
Financial problems cause stress and stress cause unhappiness. Have a healthy fear of indulgent debt.
Some debt builds a good life for you. Borrowing to buy a car (within reason), borrowing for education, borrowing to buy a home – this debt can benefit your future. Using your credit card to buy shoes or pay for a restaurant meal is stupid and you will pay in pain later. Debt can be a trap and self-discipline is absolutely key.
Before using your credit card, add the interest (multiply the amount of your purchase by 10%, double that figure and add it to the original amount). For example, you see some make up that you really want. It costs $22.00 but you don’t have enough cash. 10% of $22 is $2.00. $2.00 plus $2.00 is $4.00 so the total is actually $26.00. Then ask yourself how many hours you will have to work to pay $26 back. Then decide if you still HAVE to have it or if you should wait until you have earned the money. AND Don’t ever fall for the “but it’s on sale” trap. Ten years later you will STILL be paying for that sale.
Many people spend the rest of their life just trying to get back to zero. They would give anything to be where you are right now. Debt free. Don’t borrow for anything that isn’t going to move you closer to your goals. Don’t borrow to pay for anything that doesn’t benefit your future in some way.
Remember it isn’t how much money you make that matters – it is how much you keep.
Learn how to deal with a broken heart
Disappointments are a real and painful part of life. Sometimes that pain will stop you in your tracks and you will be unable to breathe. Trying to imagine a future will be impossible and you will become over whelmed with self-doubt and despair.
There is deep wisdom in a broken heart and you will heal. It will take time. It will be painful. It will leave scars. It will change part of who you are fundamentally but if you allow yourself to heal well. It will make you strong.
You will go through a period of self doubt. You will go through sleepless nights and physical pain. You will question everything you ever believed. These are all normal emotions and so long as you don’t stop and build your house there, you will come out the other end with the strength to start over again.
Learning to deal with the pain of rejection or loss is too big a subject for this piece (My essay called The Wisdom of a Broken Heart -deals with this in more detail) but it is enough to say that you need to get to a place where you love that little girl inside you more than the pain you are feeling. You need to love her enough to fight your way out of the current darkness and back into the light and promise of future happiness.
You need to love yourself enough to regain your trust in yourself and heal well enough to be open and able to be vulnerable to heartbreak and willing to take that risk once again. Don’t stop self-healing until you get to that point. Get outside help if you need it but don’t stop until you can feel the sun again.
Don’t waste time chasing happiness
You are not supposed to be happy all the time. It isn’t the way you grow.
Successful people became successful because of their struggles. The mountains they are forced to climb, the hurt they learn to heal, the pain they are able to endure and the problems they learn to solve is the absolute key to their superpower. Success comes to those with scars.
The real key to happiness is to have balance all areas of your life. Some partying and some hard work. Some pizza and some green veggies. Some music and some silence. Some dessert and some discipline.
If you are unhappy, determine first if you are physically balanced. Are you getting enough sleep or are you pushing yourself too hard. Are you eating properly or are you being lazy and self indulgent.
Then take stock of your emotional balance. Who are the people in your life and what energy are you exchanging. Who do you need to reduce spending time with and who can you call to feed you some positive energy and put you back on the path. Are you spending too much time alone or online? Are you spending too much with too many people?
Lastly look at your spiritual balance. However you determine your spirituality, whether it is inside a controlled religion, meditation or outside in the woods – have you spent enough time feeding your spirit?
Balance is the key to happiness. Happiness is fleeting so when you are happy, grasp it with both hands and squeeze every ounce of life out of that feeling. Be present, mindful and fully live in that moment.
When you are unhappy, remember that this too is a temporary state. It is an opportunity to grow some emotional muscle. It is your obstacle, your barrier, your training ground. Don’t avoid pain. Embrace it. It will make you strong.
You are capable of more than the role models around you
You are not your parents or your siblings or your status, colour or current opportunity. YOU are not your parents relationships (good or bad) or your siblings level of success (good or bad) or your current situation (good or bad).
You are an individual human being with unique characteristics and abilities.
You will grow beyond the successes, prejudices or mistakes your parents experienced. You will grow beyond the curses and self-doubts put on you by your siblings, parents or teachers. You will live life beyond your current situation or status. You will find opportunities and experiences that others have not had. You will grow beyond the successes or failures of your current role models.
If you can self-regulate and self-discipline, be goal-focused and continually educate yourself, you can reach your full potential. You will be more than anyone ever dreamed possible.
You are smart, capable and stronger than you give yourself credit for.
That is the end of my advice….for now. There will be more essays on life for your next birthday and other milestones.
So I will close with this. You are more amazing then you give yourself credit for. What you lack in experience you have in heart. You currently possess everything you need to achieve the promise of a great future. Unlocking those gifts, talents and abilities is the beauty, the mystery, the pain and the joy of life.
Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of your laziness or your fear.
The only real regret to have in this life is that you didn’t at least try.
I love you to the moon and back and am eagerly watching your climb to the top. Listen to your inner voice, choose your companion climbers carefully, educate yourself and then go climb the mountains of your life.